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Pushing the limits of aluminium recycling

Updated: Oct 3

«Organic in greens, plastic in pinks, paper in blues». The colour coding is the first you will learn about the recycling system in Norway.

PoS – Interview with Alicia Vallejo-Olivares, PhD candidate at NTNU

by Fjorida Llaha


«Organic in greens, plastic in pinks, paper in blues». The colour coding is the first you will learn about the recycling system in Norway.

But this is not all. Then you have to separate the glass, metal, electronics, and pay close attention to plastics bottles and beverage cans because they have a pant value that you pay and get it back only when you return them in the reverse vending machines at the stores. Yes, the Norwegian recycling system is one of the most efficient worldwide. Still, it must continue to improve as the amount and complexity of waste keep growing, endangering the environment and human health.


«Sustainable Materials–with both eyes open» is a book that broadly explains the main strategies for sustainable materials, particularly steel and aluminium, which alone account for 30 per cent of global emissions. This book was a starting inspiration for Alicia in the world of sustainability.

Alicia Vallejo-Olivares is a PhD-candidate at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), working in the Alpakka project.


So, what is the goal of the Alpakka project?


To recycle and bring back into the market all the aluminium food packaging consumed in Norway. In other words: the circularity of aluminium food packaging.

We work to improve the recycling process, the collection and sorting schemes, and the product design.

Even with the dedicated collection schemes for packaging in Norway, thousands of tonnes of aluminium end up in the incineration plants every year. Substituting primary aluminium (non-recycled) with recycled aluminium saves huge amounts of energy, greenhouse emissions and waste, so we want to make sure that we recover as much as possible.